Arrivederci, Milano.

Arrivederci, Milano | Cafecarlson.com

The “last hurrah Italian road trip” is over and we are back in Milan. Our suitcases seem to be multiplying, our patience is thin. The kids have been asking daily for exactly 24 days how many days it is until we fly to Idaho?

We’ve been to France, Tuscany and Umbria the last few weeks and it’s been quite a trip! I can’t wait to tell you about it when I catch my breath. We’ve also been living out of suitcases since June 17th when the movers packed up our house and so you can imagine the state of our hotel room where we’ve been spending our last few nights in Milan. It is CRAZYTOWN!

Arrivederci, Milano | Cafecarlson.com

 

Tomorrow we fly. The bags are packed, the last minute purchases squeezed into already overstuffed bags. It’s time to say Arrivederci to Milano, and I have to tell you I have such mixed emotions about the whole thing. It’s surreal.

We are so ready to be done with the move and the travel and the never ending list of details to wrap up and have some new normal, whatever that may look like.

But I am not ready to say goodbye to Italy. I love it here. It will be weird + wonderful moving back to my house. I expect the next many months will be a continued roller coaster of emotions as we figure out what’s next and how we fit into it all. Honestly I don’t know what to expect- but I’ll let you know as I figure it out!

Arrivederci, Milano | Cafecarlson.com

I always dreamed of living in Italy, but never thought it would really happen- at least not at this time in our lives. And Milan was definitely not on my radar. I dreamed of spending my days sketching in Rome. Of tiny stone villages surrounded by olive trees in Umbria. Never of chic Milan filled with boutiques and fashion shows.

But we were restless and looking for change- and so when the job in Milan came up, we dove in headfirst and found ourselves learning Italian, fighting for space on the autostrade, and trying to figure out the most efficient way of hanging our clothes out to dry. It seems like a million years ago in some ways, figuring out all those important day to day details.

Arrivederci, Milano | Cafecarlson.com

These last few months have been full of other details. Doing the move in reverse is more difficult than I imagined. Figuring out what was expected for checking out of the house and how to communicate with an Italian landlord, canceling Italian utilities and getting our 2 beloved dogs from Milan to Boise safe and sound has taken much more planning and effort and hoops to jump through than seems necessary. (Ahhh, Italia!)

We were only here 2 years, but it feels like our roots have grown deep. The relationships you make when you are living away from home are different. Saying goodbye to these friends was a type of sadness that I have never experienced before. Bonded through shared disasters and glorious adventures, it’s hard to realize you will never see some of these people again. Thank goodness for social media and a shared sense of adventure, I do know I will  see some of these dear friends wherever we all land around the world.

And here we are again, saying goodbye. But this time to this place we call home. We’ve made a life here in Milan, getting to know the city- finding out there is much more than boutiques and fashion and quite honestly being surprised at how much we’ve fallen in love with Milan. It does feel like home. It also feels like I could spend 100 years here and still be discovering new things. I love that so much.

Arrivederci, Milano | Cafecarlson.com

It’s the end of an era, but the beginning of a whole new chapter. It is most definitely bittersweet.

And so, darling Milano, I will be sad, but I will not say goodbye. I will say Arrivederci. Until we meet again.

H Signature

 

 

 

 

Favorite Things. {45 photos}

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Italy. Just the word makes people swoon. Many people dream of going to Italy their whole lives- dreaming of the art and architecture, the food and the people. Unless you are here completely by accident (WELCOME!), you most likely share in this love affair with Italy that I have.

My family and I have been living in Italy for the past 2 years, and we feel very fortunate to have experienced the Italy beyond “vacation Italy“. But now that the house is packed and we are living out of suitcases- we are enjoying vacation Italy to it’s fullest!

This week we have kicked off what I am calling the “Last Hurrah Italian Road Trip” before we move back to America. We are spending this week in Siena, hoping to immerse ourselves in the famous Palio horse race– a trip years in the making. (and planning) and next week wrap up our last hurrah with a trip to one of our favorite places in the world- Umbria.

It also happens to be my birthday- I am so thrilled to have had another year living in Italy and will most definitely miss the daily adventures and constant beauty everywhere I turn.

Just for fun, here are 45 favorite things photos from the past year’s shenanigans. I’ll let you take a guess how old I’m turning? ;)

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Fontana delle Tartarughe | Rome

Favorite Things. {45 photos} |cafecarlson.com

Vernazza | Cinque Terre

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Cappuccino at the train station | Milano Centrale

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

A night at the Opera | Teatro La Scala, Milan

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Doors + Bikes are a perfect duo. | Lucca

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Beautiful Art at Milano Centrale | Milan

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Nonni bundled + out shopping | Venice

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Piazza Santo Spirito | Florence

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Italian Typography | Lucca

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Swing dance party | Torino

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Prom pics at the castle | Castello Sforzesco, Milan

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Classic Beauty | Verona

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Lago di Orta

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Santa Croce | Florence

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Stunning Bernini at the Borghese Gallery | Rome

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Market in Milano

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Antique Market | Torino

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Homemade Stringozzi Pasta | Milan

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Market in Siracusa | Sicily

Favorite Things. {45 photos}| cafecarlson.com

Christmas decorations | Paciano

Favorite Things. {45 photos}

Beautiful Details in Modica | Sicily

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Above the lake in Lecco | Lake Como

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Truffle Hunt | San Miniato, Tuscany

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Pantheon | Rome

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

Duomo di Milano

We’ve traveled to a lot of places this past year, but it is Italy that continues to have my heart. Although we are moving back to America soon, this love affair will not stop now!

As I told Sarah recently, “I love that I miss Italy when we are gone and that it feels like home when we come back.” I plan to keep returning to Italy, and of course will continue to write and share stories + food, and whatever other delicious bits come my way.

Grazie Mille friends for continuing on this journey with me!

H Signature

 

 

 

Favorite Things. {45 photos} | cafecarlson.com

 

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.com

The Goodbye Tour {4 tips on saying goodbye well}

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.comI’m just going to lay it all right out there, friends. The last few weeks just about did me in. The end of the school year is a busy time in general, but adding an international move and the emotions of saying goodbye to my beloved friends, home and town makes it even more crazy.

We survived, but some days I wasn’t sure that we would. That may sound super dramatic, but it is the honest truth. The mile long to-do list, the organization of dog travel, people travel, household goods travel and all the paperwork that goes with each- Oye!

Throw into the mix school finals + events, last minute parties for the kids and their friends, and trying to organize as many dates with my friends as possible before they all scatter to the 4 winds when school lets out for the summer.

The emotional toll of saying all your goodbyes is harder to survive than the actual to do-list, in my opinion.

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.com

Honestly, I don’t know how one exits an expat assignment gracefully, and if I figure it out I will be sure to share- but for now I can say this.

Make sure to say goodbye.

Goodbyes are hard. Lump in my throat, stomach in knots, 10 tissues kind of hard. It would be easier to ignore it, feign illness or busyness- but I knew in my heart of hearts that I would regret it.

When raising a glass in Italy, you make sure to clink each persons glass individually as well as look them in the eye. I would say it is important to do the same when saying your farewells.

Make time for the people that you are closest to. Be fully present + look them in the eye. Say goodbye and tell them how much they mean to you.

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.comOh my word it’s hard. Especially when you are like me and cry at even the thought of leaving, let alone actually standing face to face with a dear friend and laying your heart on the line. And so I’ve spent the past several weeks in between packing and planning, having dinner-coffee-lunch dates with friends that have become our family.

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.com

The goodbye tour | cafecarlson.comI’ve moved around the US a fair amount in my life, but have never had quite this kind of emotional roller coaster. It’s a unique experience- moving on from expat life.

I want to share what we intentionally tried to do during the weeks leading up to moving out of our home + life here.  There are a few things I would change if I could, (always always-more time with friends!) but I’m hoping these things will help our transition, even though they felt so difficult at the time. And I’m hoping these suggestions help someone out there reading as well…

The Goodbye Tour | cafecarlson.com

 

Make a plan + Take your Time

Start planning early. You can’t wait until the last minute to say goodbye to everyone, it is just not humanly or emotionally possible! The last month of school is jam packed full of events, exams, packing and parties- so get your calendar out and write it down.

Make sure to make a date with your closest people so that time doesn’t run out. Schedule a coffee, lunch, or even a packing date- time to be together and laugh and cry with each other. Remember it’s hard on the friends staying too. They will have their own grief as they see another round of friends moving on.

Our goodbyes spread out over a few weeks. It’s exhausting, but at the same time I wouldn’t want it any other way because I enjoyed time with friends and it wasn’t completely a frantic mass goodbye that would have left us all in a little heap of snot + tears. We did it slowly and savored last meals together, chats and coffee dates- it worked for us.

Be present + Feel the feelings

With so much going on in your life, its so easy to be distracted and check off each goodbye like a list. Don’t do it! Try to pause that to-do list and be fully present with your friends. Look them in the eye. Tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Reminisce about how you met, or that horrifying-now funny adventure you had together. Don’t worry about sounding sappy or how much your mascara is running. Feel the Love…

Say goodbye to all the important bits

It is very likely that we will not return to Basiglio. I adore our adopted village, and have spent many days breathing a sigh of relief when I drove my car into our tiny town, headed towards home. For me, it was very important to say goodbye to every part of our life here.

I walked through town several times with camera in hand, capturing my favorite details and became a little teary eyed knowing how much I would miss our little village. I made a visit to my pharmacist Guido and thanked him for his kindness and for letting me practice my Italian with him. We also made sure to stop by our favorite restaurants in town and enjoyed 1 last delicious meal and saying goodbye and thanking them for feeding us so well, for embracing our family during this chapter of our lives.

Before we leave Milan the last time, we will visit some favorite spots and take even more photos of our beloved Duomo di Milano. <3

Embrace Grace  (with your family and friends)

As you prepare to move and say goodbye, it’s a hard and confusing time. Everyone processes grief differently and each person in our family is still feeling all the feelings and never the same ones.

So our mantra has been- Always extend grace + be kind.

Taking a moment to comfort each other if we are sad. Celebrating with each other that we have had a wonderful ride and are heading home soon. And every point in-between. Change is hard on over-emotional stressed to the max, sleep deprived families.

Always grace, on repeat.

What I’ve learned so far…

Saying goodbye with your whole heart is hard and necessary.

Good luck to you if you are just entering or exiting this crazy beautiful expat life. I wish you joy + happiness in your adventures.

Darling Milano friends- I am so grateful to have shared this adventure with you. I feel greedy, like we didn’t have enough time together, I’m always wanting more! I will miss you more than you will know. Blessings on your summer and the year ahead and please please keep in touch.

– viva l’amore e amici. (long live love + friends)

H Signature

 

 

 

Vigevano | cafecarlson.com

Vigevano {Favorite day trips from Milan}

Vigevano | cafecarlson.com

Vigevano is a gorgeous town not far from Milan that I have been lucky to have spent several glorious sunny days exploring.

The first visit was in 2013 with some new friends from school. I loved it so much that I took Chris back one late summer weekend last year and we wandered and enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the piazza in the sun.

This spring I returned with my mom and loved sharing this beauty with her. We had a caffé and brioche in Piazza Ducale, walked the center of town and did some shopping, then had a great lunch before heading home- in time to pick up the kids from school.

So lovely. So easy.

Vigevano | cafecarlson.com

Vigevano | cafecarlson.com

I’m sure there is much more than meets the eye in Vigevano- but each time I go I am drawn like a magnet to this gorgeous renaissance Piazza, named one of the most beautiful in Italy. (Who decides that I wonder? Doesn’t that sound like a fun job?) Continue reading

in a blink.

Verdi Quote | cafecarlson.com

The time has gone by in a blink of an eye. Seems like just yesterday we were making plans and sorting treasures from home into boxes- great thought being put into what we would take with us to Italy and what we would leave in Idaho.

All of it piled up in the living room wall by the fireplace and soon we were walking around the room like we were in a maze. My favorite novels + cookbooks came with me, much to our movers dismay. I packed crazy things like our favorite toothpaste, deodorant, peanut butter and contact cleaner.

We were filled with Big dreams. Big goodbyes. Big tears and laughter.

And now it’s time to start the process in reverse. Repatriation they call it. I’ve been in denial for months- it seemed sooo far away and now July is staring at me right between the eyes. Continue reading

Five Favorites in Milan

5 Favorites in Milan | cafecarlson.com
There is never a shortage of things to see and do in Milan! Today I am sharing 5 of my favorite places to visit in this beautiful city. The first 3 are within a 5-10 min walk of Piazza Duomo. Combine any of these with a trip to visit the Cathedral, stopping for lunch or coffee in between for a beautiful and delicious day.

BIBLIOTECA + PINOCATECA AMBROSIANA :

5 Favorites in Milan | cafecarlson.com

This is a historic library and art gallery named after Milan’s patron Saint, Saint Ambrose. There are some invaluable art pieces here, including The Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio, and the Adoration of the Magi by Titian. The building itself is beautiful and worth the visit alone, in my opinion!

Continue reading